Alright, I’m going to get this out of the way now. I loved Kamigawa. I grew up with a Japanese stepmother who would get Anime sent over from Japan and I took an early interest in Japanese culture as a boy. I think that samurai and ninjas are awesome and when I saw Kamigawa I was all over it. However, Magic: the Gathering may NEVER go back to Kamigawa (both the setting AND the block) and there’s a very good reason.
See, even though the subtitle describes Kamigawa as perfect, it’s in a way that’s very bad. Kamigawa was the Magic set that based feudal Japan, with samurai and ninja and Kitsune and with a whole bunch of mechanics that would never function alongside other cards. Kamigawa was a set that interacted with itself beautifully, but that had extremely limited reaction with other sets.
What do I mean by this? Well, let’s start with ninjas. Ninjas all had a keyword called Ninjutsu that let you switch out an unblocked attacker with a ninja, who would usually have some sort of on-hit effect. Now, his meant that if you were building a deck with ninjas in it you were probably building a straight up ninja deck, which is cool, but there were a net total of eight ninjas in the entire game, all of whom came out in Kamigawa, split between two colors. There were also cards who had a special effect whenever you cast an “Arcane” spell, which were instants and sorceries with the “arcane” type. What did a spell being “Arcane” do? Well, unless you had cards that specifically interacted with arcane spells, the keyword itself did absolutely nothing. Which meant that those cards could go into decks that only used Kamigawa cards, but were overcosted otherwise.
Then there were the legendary cards. Kamigawa had a bunch of cards that represened heroes or unique objects and as a result the set had a bunch of legendary permanents. At the time, if a permanent was legendary there could only be one of them in play at a time. There had been legendary creatures in previous sets but they weren’t a common sight. Kamigawa had legends everywhere, and cards that interacted with legendary permanents, making those cards rather useless outside of all-Kamigawa decks.
So why do I call Kamigawa perfect? Well, it is a set that interacts with itself, but has very limited interaction with any other set in the game. This makes it a solid representation of an isolationist nation that did not like to interact with foreigners, such as Feudal Japan. However, it also made it a very unpopular set.
So what did Kamigawa do right? Well, before Kamigawa, “Legend” was a creature type rather than a permanent type. Now we have legendary enchantments, artifacts and lands which leads to a lot of cool flavorful cards that we would have never seen before. Personally, I’d love to revisit the setting with the lessons learned from the first set in place, but I really doubt that will ever happen.
I’m sorry this was a short post, but there wasn’t as much to say as I’d hoped.